A student who went through three years of criminal proceedings to see her teacher prosecuted, recently learned her offender’s original conviction was gone and replaced with a lesser crime. It’s a new development in a 2 Works For You investigation we first reported in October.
We want to warn you, some of the facts in this case are graphic.
"It was embarrassing,” Gracee Drywater said.
It was the hardest time of Gracee’s young life. During a school activity in Porter, her teacher and soccer coach showed her a photo of his erect penis, after months of uncomfortable moments a 13-year-old child should never experience.
"He got really close and his ‘area’ was touching my butt and he had me like pushed up against the desk and he was breathing really hard down my neck," she said.
The Wagoner County District Attorney originally charged Johnny Lynn Scott with lewd molestation and lewd acts in the presence of a minor. Court documents show the state found other girls ready to testify to similar experiences with Scott.
In one filing, the district attorney alleged Scott performed lewd acts in the presence of another 13-year-old just weeks before Gracee went to police.
"The court system decided to make him a deal and, they didn’t let us go to trial," Gracee's grandmother Annette Panter said.
In a plea agreement, Scott was convicted of performing a lewd act in the presence of a minor. The state dismissed the lewd molestation charge. As long as he stays out of trouble for five years, he can avoid prison.
“They made it difficult on Gracee," Panter said. "She never really got to tell her story.”
Gracee’s grandmother says they agreed to the plea because they understood Scott would have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. The judgment and sentence were signed and sealed on February 22nd.
Gracee's three year nightmare ended when she saw Scott's lifetime sex offender registry online.
"These tears aren’t really as much of sadness as they are of anger because of the system," Panter said.
Six months after Scott's conviction, Annette was checking up on him in the sex offender registry. She says she noticed his sentence had changed and so had his conviction. Court records show out of the blue and without notice to Gracee, Scott's conviction changed to indecent exposure. The lewd acts conviction was gone. Now, his sex offender registration expires in 2036, not the lifetime registry Gracee traded for a trial.
"Now, he’s basically walking away with nothing," Panter said. "The court system I mean, you know, they let her down."
Gracee's grandmother says she was outraged. She says she texted assistant DA Kathy Lahmeyer, who was named in the amended judgment as the attorney representing the state. Annette says Lahmeyer told her she wasn’t there and knew nothing about it. She told Annette someone might have had her sign it without her knowledge, or the judge did it. But Lahmeyer texted Annette that she objected to the amendment and could prove it.
“I don’t think anything was illegal at all, no," Wagoner Co. Assistant District Attorney Jack Thorp said.
Thorp is Lahmeyer's boss. He says Scott’s attorney wrote up the new deal and as the lead assistant DA for Wagoner County, he approved it.
"What happened was is we entered into a plea agreement and then in order to meet the requirements of the plea agreement, we agreed to amend the charge," he said. "But Mr. Scott in this case is getting the exact same sentence he bargained for when he waived his right to a jury trial”
Thorp says it was nothing nefarious, just a simple miscommunication.
“From now on, certainly that should be communicated to the family," Thorp said. "I believe there is probably a miscommunication as to whether or not the family already knew since it was clear from the early documents that they were pleading or wanting the crime to be a level one sex offense.”
“Then they tried to convince us that we knew all along that he was going to be a level one sex offender, which that’s not what was described to us," Gracee's grandmother said.
Gracee says what she bargained for had nothing to do with "levels." She says she just never wanted Scott to touch another child. Now that the deal is done, Thorp may agree.
“If the allegations were true, in which he pled no contest to them, then yes, I think he should have been registered for life," he said.
Gracee refuses to serve a life sentence over acts that stole part of her childhood. After three years in a system that let her down, she says she's moving on.
"Just focusing on what’s coming now instead of the past, instead of focusing on what happened or anything that the court has done," she said.
Wagoner Co. Assistant District Attorney Kathy Lahmeyer told 2 Works for You Reporter Katie Wisely via text that Gracee and Annette understood the plea deal. When Katie asked about her text messages showing she objected to the amended sentence, she stopped responding.